Posts tagged with "Greenwich Village":

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Downtown Manhattan could be getting another historic district

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) today voted to calendar and move forward on the creation of the Sullivan-Thompson Historic District, the third and final phase of a proposed South Village Historic District. The new district, which has been a goal of preservationists for a decade, would be bounded by Houston Street to the north, Watts Street to the south, 6th Avenue to the west, and Thompson Street to the east, abutting the Soho Cast Iron Historic District extension. 60 percent of the building stock in the neighborhood was built before 1840. The collection of rowhouses and tenements includes many early examples of Italianate, Queen Anne, and Beaux-Arts styles. It is not your everyday proposed historic district, however. It is connected to the controversy surrounding the proposed rezoning of the St. John’s Terminal site at 550 Washington St., which many in the neighborhood have been opposed to due to its scale and proximity to the South Village neighborhood. This is exacerbated by the New York State Legislature’s approval of 1.3 million square feet of air rights/FAR that could end up being bought and used for parcels in the nearby neighborhood that the new historic district would protect, and in fact, according to the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), “in recent years developers like Donald Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner has [sic] bought properties in the neighborhood such as 156 Sullivan Street, formerly the home of beloved neighborhood institution Joe’s Dairy.” The St. John’s terminal project continues to be controversial, as it still needs approval from City Council, a process that could take a while. The project has raised concerns in the community and is still evolving. The GVSHP, with the support of CB2 and councilmember Corey Johnson, is using the creation of the Sullivan-Thompson Historic District as part of a list of demands that Westbrook Partners and Atlas Capital Group, the developers of 550 Washington St., should meet if they want to develop the proposal at St. John’s Terminal. According to Johnson’s office, the list includes a call for real public open space, public community facilities, more financial support for the pier, significant pedestrian safety measures and traffic mitigation for Hudson Square, and limits on the size of retail at the new development, which has already been reduced when the City Planning Commission removed the “big box” stores from the plan. The St. John’s Terminal project is being considered in a public hearing today, where the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will weigh in on the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which is required for a rezoning of the Washington Street site in order to make it residential. Westfield wants to purchase air rights from Pier 40 for the site across the street and get a new zoning designation in order to build residential. The next step for the historic district will be an LPC public hearing which will be on November 29, and will likely be voted on in December.
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M. Paul Friedberg & Partners-designed park opens in New York City’s Greenwich Village

On Friday, the gates opened at a long-awaited, $10 million park in Greenwich Village. The 16,000-square-foot, triangular-shaped space was designed by Rick Parisi of M. Paul Friedberg & Partners and features hexagonal pavers, benches, colorful water jets, an array of tree and flower species, and an amorphous lawn at its center. As AN reported in March, the creation of the park comes out of a deal the city made with Rudin Management Company and Global Holdings that allowed them to turn the site of the defunct St. Vincent’s Hospital into an FXFOWLE-designed condo complex. The developers fully funded the park which will be overseen by the New York City Parks Department. An 18-foot-tall AIDS Memorial, designed by Studio a+I, will soon occupy the western corner of the park. Christopher Tepper, co-founder of the New York City AIDS Memorial, told the New York Times that the memorial is being built in Buenos Aires, and is about 50 percent complete. The park does not yet have an official name.
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New York City Zoning Board Burns Studio Gang’s “Solar Carve” Tower Along the High Line

Chicago’s Studio Gang Architects announced plans for their New York debut in late 2012. The proposed building, located near the High Line along 10th Avenue between 13th and 14th streets, features a serrated edge that maximizes daylight on the elevated park next door—Jeanne Gang called it “solar carving.” But the legal path to realizing that faceted glass facade had some unexpected kinks of its own. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) was “thrilled to report” that the building’s developer withdrew their application for a zoning variance for the building. At 213 feet tall, the tower would have been 34 percent larger than current zoning allows. After a few appearances before the Board of Standards and Appeals, the project's land use attorney told the New York Observer that the zoning request had fallen flat. The developer, William Gottlieb Real Estate, is apparently moving forward with a modified application, but for now the project remains blocked. The High Line intersects the site, which is currently an empty meatpacking plant. Gang’s design placed the tower near the Hudson River, abutting the High Line. GVSHP contested the developer’s position that sandy soils and the High Line’s proximity constituted a “hardship” worthy of a zoning variance. The 186,700-square-foot office tower was planned to open in 2015. If a revised application seeks different setbacks, the “Solar Carve” tower might meet less resistance from neighborhood groups. “We have no objections to the proposed development setting back differently than the zoning requires, as this would have no negative impact upon the surrounding neighborhood,” wrote GVSHP’s executive director, Andrew Berman. “Increasing the bulk of the proposed development, however, would have such a negative impact.”
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NYU 2031 Plan Get’s A Flattop Chop

After two weeks of negotiations between the New York City Council and NYU, the Council Land Use Committee and Subcommittee on Zoning voted today to approve the modified version of NYU's 2031 plan. The plan will move before the full Council on June 25th for a final vote to give the univeristy the go-ahead to begin constuction in Greenwich Village. The nine member Zoning Subcomitee voted unanimously to approve the plan, while Land Use approved it 19-to-1. Though many expressed reservations, Council member Charles Barron cast the single “nay” vote, arguing that NYU’s development plan and the opinion of Greenwich Village’s Community Board 2 are “diametrically opposed.” While Barron said that his fellow council members would regret their votes, his colleagues seemed more hopeful. Council member Margaret Chin, who represents the neighborhoods in which the expansion will take place, said that the modified plan “will not overwhelm the community,” and that it is an appropriate balance between the integrity of Greenwich Village and the needs of NYU. Changes to the development plan include a 20 percent overall reduction of expansion, bringing the gross square footage from 2,130,000 to 1,918,000. This cutback will be concentrated in two locations: on the northern section of the Zipper Building, the bulk of which has been shifted from the corner of Mercer and Bleecker streets towards Houston, and at the Mercer street Boomerang building, which has been reduced in height from eleven-stories to a squat four. Additional modifications include increased open space, more community-dedicated spaces, financial commitments towards these spaces, and the creation of open space and construction oversight committees to help ensure that NYU follows up on its promises. As expected, Greenwich Village community activists were present to express their dissatisfaction with the approval of the modified plan. Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation stated that the modified plan was “hardly a compromise,” and that the proposed expansion was still “grossly over-sized.” While it now looks as if NYU will surely get the go-ahead at the vote next Wednesday, council member Vincent Ignizio reminded those in attendance that the challenges that face NYU and Greenwich Village are far from over. Speaking directly to the representative of the Univeristy, Ignizio stated that “now the real work begins for the community and for you, NYU. This community clearly has an issue with you, and now is your opportunity to begin a new day, wipe the slate clean and say we are going to be responsive to them.” For additional information on the NYU 2031 plan, click here.
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NYU to Take Another Shave on Last Lap of ULURP Process

The Zoning Committee of the New York City Council is holding a hearing today for NYU's proposed expansion. It is the last stop on the ULURP tour that has garnered some of the most contentious debate in a neighborhood that has seen more than its share of zoning upheaval over the past year. Usually the council votes in agreement with the council member representing the district. As such, all eyes were on Council Member Margaret Chin, whose Downtown district includes the Washington Square area where the expansion is being proposed. While Chin said that the plan is "unacceptable as it stands" she didn't outright reject the plan. According to The Wall Street Journal, Chin is casting a critical eye on the so-called Zipper Building on the southern super block. As the university agreed with City Planning to eliminate a hotel in that building, it seems likely that's where the ax will fall. Borough President Scott Stringer, whose role is advisory, said that he had already negotiated a reduction in the Zipper Building, but City Planning set aside his suggestion. This morning Chin added affordable housing to the list of her desires, opening up yet another round of arm twisting for NYU.  Whether the housing would be included on the site or within the district is unclear and whether that agreement would be binding will probably be a sticking point for the ever-vigilant Villagers. Open space was also on the Council Member's radar, but her mention of preserving park space along the DOT strips along Mercer and Laguardia streets was already mapped out by Planning. However, Chin's mention of the "thousands" of jobs that the project will bring indicates another mildly altered version of the plan will move forward. For their part, NYU stuck to the script. As an example of a university busting at the seams, President John Sexton noted that the university's library should seat 8,000 but could only accommodate 3,000. He countered claims that expansion was an attempt to fill college coffers with cash from more students, saying the expansion was physical in nature and would not correspond with a substantial growth in the student body, which he predicted would only increase by half a percent annually. He also defended the contention that the university couldn't afford the project. "We wouldn't be taxing our budget any more than we have over the last then years," he said.
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Activists Press On for AIDS Memorial at Triangle Park

On the eve of World AIDS Day, dozens crammed into the City Planning building in downtown Manhattan where the Rudin Organization presented plans for the former St. Vincent’s Hospital site at a Universal Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) hearing.  The commission is set to vote on the plan on January 24, but over the last few months yet another issue has emerged at the long contested site. Activists from the Queer History Alliance continue to press for an AIDS Memorial to be placed at a proposed park across the street from the former hospital, which was considered ground zero during the height of the AIDS crisis. The so-called Triangle Park has played an interesting role throughout the ULURP. Privately owned by the Rudin family, the park, along with the old O’Toole building, holds air-rights integrated into the development plan across the street where the Rudins want to build a multi-use project that includes housing, retail and a school. The park sits atop an underground storage space. The Queer History Alliance would like to turn the park into a memorial and the storage space into a museum. Rudin representatives expressed concerns that ranged from above ground access via elevators and stairs, to a Certificate of Occupancy for an underground museum, and adjustments to the environmental impact study. Earlier this year, Queer History's Christopher Tepper and Paul Kelterborn, both urban planners, began lobbying for the memorial and by September the group announced a partnership with Architizer to sponsor an international competition for new designs, despite the fact that the Rudins had already retained landscape architects M. Paul Friedberg and Partners for the project. On Monday, Architectural Record signed on as a co-sponsor. The deadline for the competition is January 21 with winners announced on February 1eleven days after City Planning’s vote. Tepper said that the competition would seek to combine passive recreation with memorializing. “We don’t want a park that is designed independently from a memorial,” Tepper said in a telephone interview. “It’s about marrying those two ideas.” He added that the group is looking for a “thoughtful place holder and flexibility so that the design process can work its way through.” By proposing the memorial, the Queer History Alliance threw the latest monkey wrench into the Rudins' five-year odyssey, which saw the collapse of St. Vincent’s, an unrealized Pei Cobb Freed design, the preservation of Albert C. Ledner’s Maritime Union Building (aka-the O’Toole Building), and new design proposals for the Triangle Park, seen by many as a new gateway to Greenwich Village. The jury for the competition includes many arch-world stars, but jumps beyond borders. Michael Arad will chair. He is joined by Record's Suzanne Stephens, landscape architect Ken Smith, novelist Kurt Andersen, MoMA’s Barry Bergdoll, Elizabeth Diller, the High Line’s Robert Hammond, GMHC’s Marjorie Hill, choreographer Bill T. Jones, and Richard Meier. There has been some pushback from residents. While the community board supported the notion of the memorial, it also held reservations about using the below ground space. At a meeting in September one resident pointed out that the Village already has an AIDS memorial in Hudson River Park. Nevertheless, the board favored the memorial, as did Borough President Scott Stringer. At the hearing, Rudin executive vice president John Gilbert pointed out that the project encompassed practically every major urban issue, from education, to preservation, to housing, and open space. "All well meaning policies collide here," he said of the site. No matter the outcome of the competition, any commemoration would need support from the Rudins, as they own the property. Earlier M. Paul Freidberg designs did include gestures towards memorializing the AIDS crisis and the Sisters of Mercy who worked at St. Vincent’s through discrete pavement markers. But a discrete plaque is not what the Queer Historians have in mind. “No way is that type of marker commensurate with 100,000 New Yorkers who have died,” said Tepper.
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The Trouble with Eighth Street

In his poem "One Winter Afternoon," e.e. cummings describes Eighth Street in Greenwich Village at the “magical hour when is becomes if." Well, it seems as though Eighth Street has reached that hour once again. The street, which once played a distinct role in Village bohemia, began as a hub for book dealers and fostered the original Whitney Museum. Eventually, the street became a district for shoe stores and edgy fashion anchored by Patricia Field. Field decamped for the Bowery about nine years ago and much of the street has since devolved into a hodgepodge of chain stores and characterless low-end retail. Recently, NYU commissioned a report on the economy in the Village by the economic consultants Appleseed. The report identified the strip as one of a number of “soft areas where the development of new businesses can be encouraged,” particularly the block between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Of course, any development that finds its way onto the street would have to go through a pretty rigorous process. According to City Planning, the maximum height allowance for a street wall would only be 60 feet. Demolition or alteration of an existing building would also have to go through Landmarks. Nevertheless, there are a few nondescript strip mall-type buildings along the corridor that could probably fly through the process. For some, any report commissioned by NYU must be propaganda for its expansion plans. But even NYU’s biggest detractors acknowledge there’s a problem. “It’s certainly a block that has seen better days,” said Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. “I think a lot of people are trying to see it improved, but because it’s in the historic district it's pretty safe from demolition and destruction.” Though Berman still found the report to be a “bald faced attempt to move forward the NYU agenda.” “Appleseed was examining the economy of Greenwich Village, we didn’t tell them the specifics of what to examine,” said NYU’s chief spokesperson John Beckman. “The mentions of Eighth Street should not be taken as an indication that NYU would be directly involved in the development of the street.” Still, one former Eighth Street stalwart isn’t buying it. “This is a bitter subject for Patricia as she was forced to not only close her store on Eighth Street but also leave her home [she was residing on the top floor of the building],” wrote Patricia Field’s spokesperson Dennis Bernard in an email. “In 2002, NYU kicked her out and all the other business followed. NYU killed Eighth Street. This all she has to say about it.”
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The Straw That Broke the Silver Towers’ Back

I.M. Pei speaks and NYU listens. The university announced this week that plans for a Grimshaw-designed residential highrise planned for Pei's landmarked Silver Towers block will be scrapped after the architect expressed disapproval over the project. The proposed 400-foot tower set amid three original concrete structures had been a point of conflict between NYU and its neighbors. Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, led an effort to landmark Pei's Silver Towers site and has been vocal in his opposition to the proposed fourth tower. "This arrangement of three towers in a pinwheel fashion, with one side left open around a central space, was a motif you see throughout [Pei's] works,” Berman told AN earlier this month. “It was not an accident or an incomplete design awaiting a fourth element.” While neighbors in Greenwich Village repeatedly battled the fourth tower, the final blow came from Pei himself.  “From the beginning, we sought a design for the Silver Towers block that was most respectful of Mr. Pei’s vision. Some people disagreed with our proposed approach; others agreed. We believed that among those who agreed was Mr. Pei himself, who expressed no opposition to the concept of a tower on the landmarked site when we spoke with him directly in 2008,” said Lynne Brown, NYU’s Senior Vice President, in a release. “Mr. Pei has now had a change of heart. The clarity Mr. Pei has now provided--that the Morton Williams site is ‘preferable’--is helpful to us in understanding how to proceed with our ULURP proposal.” Now, plans call for a return to the adjacent original building site where a Morton Williams grocery sits. That location had been passed over in favor of the Silver Towers site to preserve sight lines, the University said at the time. Berman has also expressed concern about the Morton Williams site.  “The fact that building on the supermarket site would also be bad doesn’t make building on the landmark site any less terrible,” Berman said earlier in November. He suggested at the time that NYU explore building opportunities in the financial district, where community boards have actively invited such development. New York University has begun preparing a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application for submission next year to build on the Morton Williams site. New plans must undergo full review before construction can take place.
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The Return of Cousin St. Vinny

Back in March, Protect the Village Historic District sued the Landmarks Preservation Commission over its granting of a hardship to St. Vincent's Hospital, so that it might demolish Albert C. Ledner's National Maritime Union Headquarters, now known as the O'Toole building, and replace it with a new hospital tower designed by Pei Cobb and Freed. The focus of PVHD's suit is that the hospital did not explore suitable alternatives, nor did the commission require them, but now, the state Supreme Court appears to be questioning the very nature of the hardship finding—that retaining the O'Toole buildings prevented the hospital from carrying out its charitable mission—or at least that is the finding of a brief filed today by the Municipal Art Society and half-a-dozen preservation groups that directly challenges the LPC on the matter. Filed on behalf of neither the petitioners nor the defendants but at the behest of the court, which is trying to better understand the mechanics of the hardship finding, the MAS' attorneys argue that the LPC erred in finding that a hardship was created by the O'Toole building when in fact it was the neighboring buildings that created the problems for the hospital. The LPC then falsely created a campus that included both the historic buildings east of Seventh Avenue and the Ledner building west of it, and with this campus, extended the hardship from the buildings responsible for it to the one that was not. MAS and company—Historic Districts Council, Greenwich Village Society, the National Trust, the Preservation League, Brooklyn Heights Association, and Friends of the UESHD—argue that in part because the Ledner building remains quite usable, and is not directly infringing on the functioning of the neighboring hospital, it can not be held accountable. And this does not even get into the issues of whether sufficient off-site alternatives were explored and the fact that St. Vincent's knowingly bought a landmark it could not alter, which are at the heart of the original suit. MAS does note that the standards for determining hardship are complex, and it should also be pointed out that, while ostensibly neutral, all seven amici have lobbied on behalf of preserving the Ledner buildings and indeed hold quite a vested interest in the LPC's defeat. Simply consider the conclusion of the brief [PDF], which states, in part, that the commission "has created a dangerous precedent that may have a devastating effect on the preservation of landmark buildings and historic districts throughout New York City." This is personal. We're still waiting to hear back from some real estate attorneys as to the exact role this brief might play in the case, whether or not it will actually sway the judges, but as soon as we know, you'll know.
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Healthy Development

We've been following the proposed hospital cum condos plan for St. Vincent's rather closely as its percolated through the LPC the past year-and-a-half, but due to conflicting plans and just a smidge of St. Vincent's fatigue, we couldn't make it to yesterday's latest hearing on the Rudin condo proposal. As we understand it, though, it was no different than the proposal unveiled 51 weeks prior. What was on view, however, were some fancy new renderings of those same old buildings, which you can find here. According to the Times, the proceedings were raucous as usual, with some 80 opponents speaking out against the project, a 233-foot condo tower designed by FXFowle along with a handful of condo conversions made out of historic hospital building. These apartments, developed by Rudin Management, are meant to help finance the recently approved 286-foot hospital tower designed by Pei Cobb Freed that will rise across Seventh Avenue on the site of Albert Ledner's former National Maritime Union Headquarters. "Essentially, they felt the building had to come down," LPC spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon told us today in a phone interview. Did they happen to say how big is too big? "They didn't specify," de Bourbon replied. "They just said it was too bulky and too tall." Dan Kaplan, the FXFowle partner in charge of the project, assured us the firm would be back. "I was encouraged by the Commisisoners' constructive comments on the scheme presented," he wrote in an email. As for these renderings, it's always impossible to tell what a building will really look like once it's built, but these don't seem so bad, do they? Then again, the design team has often been criticized by the commission for manipulating their media to only produce the desired affect. But hey, who can blame 'em?
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My Cousin St. Vinny

The Observer points us to a lawsuit filed today in State Supreme Court aimed at stopping the demolition of Albert C. Ledner's National Maritime Union HQ in Greenwhich Village, now known as the O'Toole Building. If you read the paper with any regularity, you should know full well the story of St. Vincent's Hospital's attempts to replace the one-of-a-kind "overbite building" with a 300-foot tall Pei Cobb Freed-designed hospital tower. Well, the lawsuit may be just in time, as the Landmarks Preservation Commission is due to vote today on whether or not it approves the outsized plans for the new hospital building. As we most recently reported, a majority of commissioners are leaning towards approval, meaning the suit may be the last chance to save Ledner's building. The petition, which can be found here, was filed by the Protect the Village Historic District and a coalition of preservation groups and neighbors. It effectively calls into question the commission's torturous 6-4 October vote, which condemned the building in question, on the grounds that the hospital, and its development partner Rudin, were not wholly forthcoming. The petitioners claim the developers mis-attributed their "constitutional hardship"--St. Vincent's argues that it cannot carry out its charitable duties in its current facilities and that it cannot find a suitable replacement site beyond the O'Toole building--and that this hardship was falsely accepted by the commission. Perhaps more importantly, they challenge the fact that the property was knowingly purchased as a landmark by St. Vincent's:
In addition, petitioners contend that because St. Vincent’s acquired O’Toole Building AFTER the restrictions imposed by the Landmarks Law were already in place, the Hospital could not have had “reasonable investment-backed expectations” of the sort that would justify a constitutional exception to the otherwise proper and lawful restrictions on an owner’s use of its property that are codified in the Landmarks Law.
This has been a major issue for preservationist throughout the two-year fight because they fear it sets a dangerous precedent wherein any charity could purchase a landmark, claim it does not suit its needs, and then demolish it. The hope is that with the subpeona power of the courts, the petitioners can bring to light many of the concerns that were never fully aired in public at the commission, such as the financial position of the hospital and any closed-door discussions and analysis performed by the developers with regards to alternative site. Still, one prominent land-use attorney who often goes before the commission doubted the suit's success. The attorney, declined to comment because, on the one hand, a number of associates lived in the neighborhood and were upset by the proposal, while on the other, the firm had and might yet deal with similar claims. Generally speaking, however, the attorney said the commission is always very cautious on such matters. "The hardship is rigorous, it's difficult" the attorney said. "It's difficult to meet the standard, and the commission is sure to dot all its 'i's. Usually, it's difficult to overturn these administrative decisions." Indeed, at the October vote, every single commissioner read from prepared remarks, something almost never seen, especially from the entire commission. An LPC representative even explained that prepared statements were used to be sure everything was on record and legitimate. The rep then added, "You know, in case there's a law suit." Well, the commission's gotten it's wish, so to speak. (The city has declined to comment until it receives the petition, which a spokesperson said it had not.) Whether this turns into another Atlantic Yards, or even another Grand Central, which is what got us here in the first place, remains to be seen. Then again, if they vote down the hospital tomorrow, maybe it won't even matter. But if not, we can only hope Joe Pesci is on the petitioner's side, 'cause he sure puts up a good fight.